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March 30, 2013 at 6:00 PM   |   Comments

N. Korea ends truce with S. Korea

PYONGYANG, North Korea, March 30 (UPI) -- The Obama administration takes seriously North Korea's statement that it is in a "state of war" with South Korea, a spokesman said Saturday.

The Pyongyang regime said it has ended the truce with South Korea that ended the Korean War, the BBC reported.

Caitlin Hayden, a spokeswoman for the National Security Council, said the U.S. government takes the threat seriously while recognizing North Korea has a long history of bellicose statements, The Hill reported.

"We take these threats seriously and remain in close contact with our South Korean Allies," Hayden said. "But, we would also note that North Korea has a long history of bellicose rhetoric and threats and today's announcement follows that familiar pattern."

It was the latest in a series of threats from Pyongyang since a third nuclear test Feb. 12 led to the imposition of new international sanctions.

"From this time on, the North-South relations will be entering the state of war and all issues raised between the North and South will be handled accordingly," the North Korean statement said. "The long-standing situation of the Korean peninsula being neither at peace nor at war is finally over."

The two Koreas have been in a technical truce since the end of the Korean War. No peace treaty was ever signed.

The South Korean defense ministry denounced the threats, adding in a statement: "Our military is maintaining full preparedness to leave no blind point in safeguarding the lives and safety of the people," Yonhap News Agency reported.


Obama sets gun speech in Colorado

WASHINGTON, March 30 (UPI) -- U.S. President Barack Obama will travel to Colorado next week to promote legislation intended to reduce gun violence, the White House said Saturday.

The president will meet with local law enforcement officials and community leaders to discuss newly enacted Colorado laws, including laws to close background check system loopholes, the White House said.

He plans to deliver an address on the subject at the Denver Police Academy.

Obama called on Congress Thursday to act on gun control.

Speaking in the White House East Room, the president recalled the 26 children and adults killed by a gunman at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., Dec. 14.

"It's been barely 100 days since 20 innocent children and six brave educators were taken from us by gun violence -- including Grace McDonnell and Lauren Rousseau and Jesse Lewis, whose families are here today," he said.

"I haven't forgotten those kids. Shame on us if we've forgotten."


Guest worker visas an issue in talks

WASHINGTON, March 30 (UPI) -- U.S. senators working on immigration reform are trying to bridge the gap between unions and business owners on guest worker visas, The Washington Post reports.

One plan would cap the number of visas for low-skilled workers at 20,000 in the first year of an expanded program, the newspaper said Friday, citing sources involved in the discussion. By 2020, 75,000 visas would be allocated to that group.

One specific area of disagreement is the number of visas that would be allocated for the construction industry.

The AFL-CIO is lobbying for tight limits on the hiring of foreign workers in construction.

Under a union-friendly plan, only one-third of the new visas would go to construction workers. The industry, unlike others, would be barred from hiring employees beyond the cap who would have to be paid significantly higher wages.

Business lobbyists have been pushing for a more expansive program, with 400,000 new visas for guest workers.

Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y. -- one of the bipartisan "Gang of Eight" working on the bill said he is optimistic the differences will be resolved.

"We are very close, closer than we have ever been, and we are very optimistic, but there are still a few issues remaining," he said.


Deadly Afghan helicopter attack probed

GHAZNI, Afghanistan, March 30 (UPI) -- Western military forces in Afghanistan said they were investigating an air strike Saturday that Afghan officials said killed 15 civilians.

A spokesman for the International Security Assistance Force confirmed a helicopter had opened fire on suspected Taliban fighters outside Kabul, but did not confirm reports from local officials in the Ghanzi district that 15 civilians had been killed.

The officials said the copter had fired on a village. Seven people were injured, including two women and a child.

Maj. Adam Wojack, an ISAF spokesman, told CNN the helicopter had been dispatched to the site to help an Afghan police convoy under Taliban attack.

A hospital official in the area told the Khaama Press several Taliban died in the raid but that report was not immediately confirmed.


Mandela said breathing without difficulty

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa, March 30 (UPI) -- Former South African President Nelson Mandela was breathing without difficulty during his third day of hospitalization, officials said Saturday.

Mandela, 94, was admitted to the hospital Wednesday for treatment of a lung infection. He was comfortable after a procedure to drain fluid from his lungs, the office of President Jacob Zuma said in a statement.

Earlier in the day, the elder statesman was described as making "steady progress."

Mandela's lungs are believed to have been damaged while working in a prison quarry during nearly four decades of imprisonment, the BBC reported.

He was freed from prison in 1990 and served as the country's first black president from 1994 to 1999.

The hospitalization is Mandela's fourth in just over two years.

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